Tag Archives: interview

Interview: Photographer Doug Plummer and the 2012 Contradance Calendar

A truly wonderful holiday gift for dance family and friends. Also available in bulk, a great way to fund-raise for your dance.

Doug Plummer has taken some of the greatest photos and videos of contra dance out there. This year, in conjunction with CDSS, he’s put out the 2012 Contradance Calendar, which collects some of his photography into a beautiful wall calendar.

I’ve been using mine and every month makes me smile. It’s a truly wonderful holiday gift for dance family and friends. Order it at the CDSS store. (Order by December 20 and get a free upgrade to expedited shipping.)

I love both Doug’s photos and this calendar, so I asked Doug a few questions about how it both came about.

– Max

What inspired you to start taking photos at dances?

DP: I’ve been photographing contra dance as long as I have been a dancer, which is to say, decades. As a newly single 30-something, I I fell into the Seattle contra dance scene in the mid 1980’s, and it came to be my primary social life. I was starting my professional photography career then too. I was moving out of being an assistant to commercial photographers and starting to get my own clients. I’d always shot personal work, and dancing was the most compelling event in my personal life. It was inevitable that it would be a major subject for me. By now there are probably 60,000 dance images in the archive.

Why did you decide to do a dance calendar?

DP: The calendar project came about because of my friend Joanne Lauterjung Kelly, a designer and a dancer. Back in 2010 she asked about using my work in her annual calendar that she sends out to her clients and friends. It was a small, modest project, but I ended up declining the offer (she really likes cropping photos, and I wouldn’t let her crop mine). Nonetheless, we talked about producing something I could live with for the next year, and that’s how it began.

Doug Plummer getting the perfect shot.

We posted hundreds of photos on a wall in her office, and we winnowed the possibilities down to what seemed like the ones that could survive scrutiny for a month. I kept the semi-finalists posted in my office and, over a couple months, found the ones that survived my scrutiny. And then I looked for the small photographs that supported the large image. I tried to have each month be a theme, often about the location of the dance. So there’s a Nelson month, a Concord month, and an Asheville month. Unavoidably, there are several Pacific Northwest months, but I tried to have them look different from each other. There’s a close-up-of-hands-on-musical-instruments month.

Why do this project in conjunction with CDSS?

DP: I’ve been talking with CDSS for years about some sort of joint project with my photographs. I’ve wanted for a long time to do a book of my dance work, and I’ve been approaching publishers about this (no takers yet, and I have not been willing to self-publish.) A calendar, however, seemed like a lower risk venture that I could fund myself and that would have a well defined audience. CDSS seemed like the obvious gateway to that audience, and I wanted to structure the finances so that it would benefit them and their local affiliates. We discussed the project early in the year, jointly arrived at a price point that they thought would work, and what the potential audience might be for it. I wanted the imprimatur of CDSS as a way to say, this is more than about me and my photographs. This is about the community of dance, and a way to share and support that.

January

What’s your approach to taking dance photos?

DP: There’s a kind of bifurcated quality to my approach to dance photography. On the surface, it’s obvious that I’m making a document of a particular kind of social event. But the real drive for me were the photographic challenges to find and make a compelling, coherent image in a complex, dynamic environment. This, now, was back in the days of slow transparency film. It was a big technical challenge, and I figured out a style that included combining ambient and strobe lighting, movement, and a visceral attentiveness to the compelling moment. I remember seeing one similar body of work in an issue of Aperture Magazine on swing dancers, but I don’t think anyone else was mining this particular landscape for photographs the way I was.

Now, of course, you can’t go to a dance without seeing a whole lot of people taking photos or making videos. I was at the Peterborough Fall Ball a couple months ago, and the number of people wielding high end DSLR’s, with strobes, was startling. Every dance has multiple Facebook albums of it posted the next day. Photographs are part of the social currency of the dance scene now.

What have you learned about taking good dance photos?

DP: The subject of how to take better dance photographs and video is a long one, and I have a lot of suggestions and opinions. Let’s save that for another blog post.

What are your hopes for future projects like this?

DP: What I hope for the calendar is that this becomes a regular fixture in the community, that I will produce it every year and it can help support the community and support my travels to document it. This year’s calendar I have to view as the initial steep slope of the learning curve and as an investment in a longer term project—which is another way of saying that it’s going to lose money. Next year I’ll probably launch it as a Kickstarter project and fund it in advance.

One ancillary benefit that I hadn’t anticipated is that I discovered there is a demand for high quality photos and video to promote events. I went to the BACDS American Week and posted photos and video on Facebook every day while I was there. I’m the ePublicity person for next year’s camp now. I’ve gotten invitations to come to other dance camps and do the same thing, and they’re putting me on staff to do it. This is how I’m going to get the content for the 2013 calendar.

And what else are you working on?

DP: I’m doing a lot of video work these days. At the moment I’m working on a series of 8 short documentaries for Northwest Folklife Festival documenting various music and dance communities in the Northwest. They’ve ranged from Scandinavian to Hindu to Hawaiian to Gospel to Old Time to Shape Note Singing. They’re about to launch a new site just for these, but for now you can go to Northwest Stories.

Doug Plummer is a photographer from Seattle, WA.

Read Doug’s blog on the 2012 Contradance Calendar: http://dougplummer.blogs.com/contracalendar/

Buy the calendar at the CDSS store. ($18) Free expedited through December 20.

Bulk orders for fund-raising. Tell your dance organizers! The calendar is also available in at discounted bulk rates. Buy a bunch of them to sell at your local dance, and your group can keep the profit. Buy 5 to 25 calendars for $15, 26 to 69 calendars for $12, and a full box of 70 for $10 each. E-mail sales@cdss.org or call 413-203-5467 x 103.

An Interview with Marie Dalton-Meyer, CDSS Interim Executive Director

I sat down with Marie Dalton-Meyer, who is currently serving as the Interim Executive Director at CDSS, and asked her a few questions. – Max

 

 

Marie, could you tell us what your background is?

I’ve been involved in the arts really my whole career. I started out as a French and history teacher, and I involved the arts as part of my teaching. I did a Masters in Teaching Museum Education and then I started working for nonprofits in arts and culture. That’s where my heart is.

I worked for a corporation for ten years, in arts sponsorship. I have been executive director or in senior management in half a dozen nonprofits over the years. That’s where my passion is.

The reason I think I’ve stayed in the arts all this time is because, for me, it’s part of what makes life full and interesting. Without the arts, whether it’s visual arts or performing arts, our lives wouldn’t be as rich as they are. Different things feed different people. That’s what feeds me.

And what’s your role at CDSS right now?

I’m serving as Interim Executive Director during a transition period. The Board is working with Third Sector New England, from Boston, an organization which does work with nonprofits in all sorts of areas – leadership development, sustainability, operations – and as one piece of that an interim director comes in and leads the organization during a process of the search for a permanent E.D. [Executive Director].

What do you do on a day-to-day basis at CDSS?

What I do on a day-to-day basis is run the organization. I oversee all the programs and all the activities of the organization. I work with staff and I work with the Board. So I function as the director of an organization would. I have the responsibility to make decisions, to move the organization forward, and to support the staff in their work.

So, what has been going on at CDSS? Where are we now and where are we going?

The organization is, plain and simple, in a transition period from a longtime Executive Director to new leadership. And that’s involving the whole organization, through the Board and the staff and the organization’s constituency. So, where CDSS has been from my perspective is the Board has hired an Interim E.D. and they are doing strategic visioning to clarify the search process for a new director. From the outside, it looks very much like business as usual. All the programs are going full steam, all the work is going full steam, the website is vibrant with new activities, publications are being produced. Everything looks as though it’s seamless. And it, in fact, is seamless, but there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes.

I know you visited two of CDSS’s programs this summer. Anything to share from those experiences?

I was so glad I was able to spend a couple of days at Family Week at Ogontz and at English Week at Pinewoods. Even in a few days I was struck and captivated by the spirit and joy of community. At Ogontz I was swept up in a fabulous intergenerational experience in a spectacular spot of New Hampshire. At English Week it was a pleasure to meet so many longtime CDSS friends and supporters, and the quality of the music, dance and song was inspirational. What fun!

If folks reading this have ideas or concerns about CDSS and the transition going on, what should they do about those concerns?

They should be in touch with Debbie Jackson, head of the Transition team, which is made up of Board and staff. [See here for a list of CDSS committees, task groups, and their members. – Max]

Is there anything you’d like members of CDSS to know about?

I think one of the things I am struck by in coming to this organization – coming from a background primarily in the visual arts, and my knowledge of the interests CDSS speaks to was certainly limited – I am struck by the passion and interest of Board and staff in the work. Both the work of the organization and the very culture that it supports. I want the membership to know that this organization is very serious about its work and the role that it plays in sustaining, promoting, energizing people about the wonderful things that happen in English and Anglo-American dance, music, and song.

The Board has made a big commitment to do some good thinking around what’s next for the organization, how to best prepare it for the next leader, and then hiring a leader. In this process, as always, CDSS needs the support of its constituencies.

Thanks, Marie!

Thanks, Max!

Marie Dalton-Meyer began serving as the Interim Executive Director this May.

 

Marie, could you tell us what your background is?

I’ve been involved in the arts really my whole career. I started out as French and history teacher, and I involved the arts as part of my teaching. I did a Masters in Teaching Museum Education and then I started working for nonprofits in arts and culture. That’s where my heart is.

I worked for a corporation for ten years, in arts sponsorship. I have been executive director or in senior management in half a dozen nonprofits over the years. That’s where my passion is.

The reason I think I’ve stayed in the arts all this time is because, for me, it’s part of what makes life full and interesting. Without the arts, whether it’s visual arts or performing arts, our lives wouldn’t be as rich as they are. Different things feed different people. That’s what feeds me.

And what’s your role at CDSS right now?

I’m serving as interim Executive Director during a transition period. The Board is working with Third Sector New England, from Boston, an organization which does work with nonprofits in all sorts of areas – leadership development, sustainability, operations – and as one piece of that an interim director comes in and leads the organization during a process of the search for a permanent E.D. [Executive Director].

What do you do on a day-to-day basis at CDSS?
What I do on a day-to-day basis is run the organization. I oversee all the programs and all the activities of the organization. I work with staff and I work with the Board. So I function as the director of an organization would. I have the responsibility to make decisions, to move the organization forward, and to support the staff in their work.

So, what has been going on at CDSS? Where are we now and where are we going?
The organization is, plain and simple, in a transition period from a longtime Executive Director to new leadership. And that’s involving the whole organization, through the Board and the staff and the organization’s constituency. So, where CDSS has been from my perspective is the Board has hired an Interim E.D. and they are doing strategic visioning to clarify the search process for a new director. From the outside, it looks very much like business as usual. All the programs are going full steam, all the work is going full steam, the website is vibrant with new activities, publications are being produced. Everything looks as though it’s seamless. And it, in fact, is seamless, but there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes.

 

I know you visited two of CDSS’s programs this summer. Anything to share from those experiences?
I was so glad I was able to spend a couple of days at Family Week at Ogontz and at English Week at Pinewoods. Even in a few days I was struck and captivated by the spirit and joy of community. At Ogontz I was swept up in a fabulous intergenerational experience in spectacular spot of New Hampshire. At English Week it was a pleasure to meet so many longtime CDSS friends and supporters, and the quality of the music, dance and song was inspirational. What fun!

If folks reading this have ideas or concerns about CDSS and the transition going on, what should they do about those concerns?

They should be in touch with Debbie Jackson, head of the Transition team, which is made up of Board and staff.

Is there anything you’d like members of CDSS to know about?
I think one of the things I am struck by in coming to this organization – coming from a background primarily in the visual arts, and my knowledge of the interests CDSS speaks to was certainly limited – I am struck by the passion and interest of Board and staff in the work. Both the work of the organization and the very culture that it supports. I want the membership to know that this organization is very serious about its work and the role that it plays in sustaining, promoting, energizing people about the wonderful things that happen in English and Anglo-American dance, music, and song.

The Board has made a big commitment to do some good thinking around what’s next for the organization, how to best prepare it for the next leader, and then hiring a leader. In this process, as always, CDSS needs the support of its constituencies.